When the Israelites had no water at Meribah in Numbers 20:12, Moses had been told by God to take Aaron’s staff that budded and go stand in front of the grumbling Israelites and “speak” to the rock from which the Lord would bring forth water. But, instead Moses had taken Aaron’s staff and in a fit of anger from having spent forty years with the Israelites, Moses chewed the people out and hit the rock with the staff. This produced the desired result of water for the people, but Moses was taken to the side by God and rebuked. Because Moses had not followed God’s directions, but had decided to handle the people in his own way the Lord would not allow Moses to enter the Promise Land. Instead, Joshua would lead the people into the land.
But, since Moses had proceeded further than he may have anticipated and had secured two victories against the King of Moab and the King of the Amorites, Moses may have begun to think that God may have relented in his anger and was going to allow Moses to proceed.
The text of scripture explains in three places that God was “angry” with Moses for not following his word at Meribah: Deuteronomy 1:37; 3:26; 4:21. The Hebrew word used for the Lord’s “anger” towards Moses is ‘anap in 1:37 and 4:21, but it is ‘abar in 3:26. Both, words are words for “anger” with ‘anap being much more common. ‘Abar, which means “furious,” is rarely used of God’s anger. This word is translated in Psalm 78:21 and other places in the OT as “very angry” in the NIV. It could be said that “God’s anger boiled over” at that point and Moses stopped asking.
Moses “pleaded” with the Lord to have a second chance and to be allowed to enter the Promised Land, but the answer was “No.” And, eventually the Lord became “very angry” about being asked to change his mind. The word translated “pleaded” is the Hebrew word ethhannan which refers to the needy person throwing themselves on the compassion, the good will or the grace of the stronger person. (Genesis 42:21; Job 9:15; Psalm 30:8
Notice that Moses does not accept God’s decision as “fate” or “predestined,” but knows it can be changed if only God is willing. But, the Lord is NOT willing in this case. The decision has been made. Because of his actions, Moses will proceed no further. Moses the great mediator for the people cannot mediate a change in God’s mind. The land was promised to Israel, so they will proceed. It was not promised to Moses personally. He will stop short or the Promised Land.